…is a difficult thing for an indie game. I know of some companies where HALF the staff work full time on promoting the game. Doing nothing but making youtube videos, tweeting, replying to people on forums and facebook, emailing the press, looking for new indie game review sites, and generally building up a chatty online presence with lots of online friends so that they have an easier job of getting ‘viral’ PR for their game when it launches.
I totally understand why some indies work that way. it makes a lot of economic sense. I’ve also read about indies who spend six months making a game, then just promote, publicize and do SEO for the enxt two years to milk that game, and claim that it is a far better use of their time than merely making another game. This kinda saddens me.
there are of course, other indies who sit in a dark room churning out the most cool, original and fun games that nobody ever hears about because they hate / suck at doing PR and thus remain effectively ‘undiscovered’. This is a real shame.
So where is cliffski and positech games in all this. I know quite a few cynical whiny online ‘haters’ who think I’m in the 95% PR group. They tend to be the people who say GSB looks like it was done in flash in a weekend because it’s 2D. (*yawn*). Actually, I’m closer to the dark cavern guy than the ‘always promoting’ guy. I tweet a few times a day, but only half of that is about games. I rarely post to facebook, I post on the odd forum, but not enough to have a real ‘presence’ anywhere. I’ve only been to GDC once, never to PAX or Comicon, or any other non-UK trade event. I’ve given two public talks, and appeared on 2 panels. That’s it.
My biggest ‘PR’ is probably this blog, which isn’t a big time commitment at all. I also write for Custom PC magazine in a similar style.
Getting the balance right is extremely hard. I am probably not doing enough PR for Redshirt and Democracy 3 yet, although that will change in the next month or two. The problem I face is I never know how close a game of mine is to being done until it’s more or less done, so I always think I’ll be doing PR too early. An example of someone who has done well both on making a great game AND doing great PR for it is Andy Schatz’s Monaco. The problem is, that game took six hundred years to make, and that would drive me mad. I like to aim for a game a year / eighteen months at most.
This year, I am aiming to be a bit more committed to PR. I’ll be at rezzed, with a booth this time! A proper one with 4 screens and 2 games, which is a staggeringly expensive thing to do, if I’m honest. I even bought a video camera to take to stuff like this (only a cheap one) so I can have some ‘our game at rezzed’ footage to spice up some promotional videos, and to hopefully film people playing the games to see how they play them. I might put in an appearance at other shows too, who knows.
Hardly anyone gets the balance right, and I think it’s an essential component of an indie games success. Even more so if you have to go through ‘greenlight’ to get on steam. That’s an extra, very targeted peice of PR you now need to do on top of everything else. Arrrgghhhh…